Sunday, 13 August 2017

Seminarians in the soup

A few weeks ago the story emerged of a group of seminarians who after attending an ordination Mass took themselves off to the pub where they were refused service because the staff thought that men dressed in cassocks could only be part of a stag night celebration which they didn`t want to serve. The pub relented when the truth was discovered and went so far as to name one of their ales after the incident.

I belong to a group of priests who meet for lunch on a monthly basis. In May we chose a new pub. I said to the waitress as the six of us walked in that we were a stag do but clearly that was too ridiculous to be true and no upset occurred. We are a bit old for that kind of thing.

However what struck me as interesting about the story was that if in my day, in the 80`s, a group of seminarians had walked into a pub wearing cassocks their biggest problem would not have been whether the staff would serve them but what would be said to them when they got back to the seminary. Although there was a custom at Ushaw that seminarians from second year up could wear a cassock on a Sunday it was much frowned upon by the staff and I remember my interview for diaconate with the President of Ushaw was mainly devoted to asking why I chose to wear a cassock on a Sunday. I imagine if in the 80`s seminarians had gone for a drink in cassocks it would have been considered a formation issue with dire consequences. So things are more relaxed nowadays it seems. At least I hope so. The English College in Rome was very down on cassocks, apart from a few special occasions, in my experience in the 90`s and I`m not sure things have changed much although I`d like to hear otherwise. 

I have always worn the cassock for Mass in the parish. One of my favourite incidents came while I was a curate in Morpeth. Bishop Ambrose was on visitation and stood at the door greeting parishioners after Mass in his cassock. When I turned up in mine he asked me why I was wearing mine. I said I always did and he replied "How extraordinary!"

So well done to the seminarians. Here`s something else about cassocks.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Last Mass at Brinkburn

Brinkburn 2016
The annual Mass at Brinkburn Priory will take place on Saturday 9th September at 12 noon. This will be the twenty-third and last. The choir Antiphon will be singing the Missa L'homme arme' by Guillaume Dufay with the motets Benedicta et venerabilis by Byrd and Parsons Ave Maria. We will also have a Gregorian chant group led by David Edwards.  I`m hoping the Mass will be a Solemn High celebration but am still trying to confirm the sacred ministers. 

Last year after Mass the English Heritage lady in the cabin said she was concerned that we had been using candles and incense as these are not allowed in English Heritage properties for health and safety reasons. I can see this being the case for stately homes with many fabrics about but Brinkburn is made of stone apart from the sedilia. However, I wrote to English Heritage to get clarification but got no response. A week ago I wrote to English Heritage to confirm all was arranged for September 9th. I was told that it was but we must not use candles or incense. It was suggested we use electric candles which is what other people do. I thought this wasn`t allowed for Mass but anyway a Solemn High Mass without incense would be ridiculous so I assumed that was it. However this week English Heritage came back to me and said given the short notice of cancellation they were happy for the Mass to go ahead with incense and candles this time but not in the future. So there we have it after nearly a quarter of a century. I`ll miss Mass at Brinkburn as it is a glorious location. So I`m looking into other venues for the Hexham and Newcastle LMS day out.  We used to have a Mass at St Mary`s cathedral in Newcastle for a few years but have been told this year that that is not to happen. However I have a couple of other irons in the fire!

Tuesday, 18 July 2017

Summorum Pontificum at 10 again

Many thanks to Leo Darroch for giving his reflections on Summorum Pontificum on July 7th. His talk took us through from the beginnings of the struggle for the traditional Mass until the present. It was useful to be reminded of the story and to learn more of the background detail. 

One thing in particular struck me. Under the terms of the original indult for England and Wales Mass was celebrated at Esh Laude. This is an attractive and historic church but in a remote rural location.  However it was not far from Ushaw College, the seminary, as was, for the north, where I was studying, so it proved to be a convenient location from my point of view. Originally permission was given for Mass only three times a year. The then LMS diocesan rep, Jack Harvey, decided one year to ask for a fourth annual Mass to commemorate the anniversary of local martyrs.

Leo told the story thus:
In the late 1970s the LMS diocesan representative managed to obtain permission from the bishop for three Masses per year under the ‘English Indult’. They had to be late on a Wednesday evening in an isolated parish and no advertising was allowed. On one occasion the representative asked for a fourth Mass to commemorate the anniversary of four local Reformation martyrs. The bishop was furious and threatened that if he didn’t stop harassing him then he would stop the lot! Three Masses per year!!!

The bishop was bishop Lindsay. He retired in 1992 and died in 2009.  In his latter years we had a regular email correspondence, much of which I still have,  as he used to read Forest Murmurs and offered me his thoughts on the issues addressed. I was very sorry when I heard of his death as he had invited me to go to see him the following week to talk and, as he had been quite supportive in our meetings at diocesan events, I was very much looking forward to talking to him about it all.

There are rumours that Summorum Pontificum may be revoked. I can`t see how this is possible given the statement by pope Benedict that the traditional Roman missal had never been abrogated. (I had argued in my canon law tesina that it had been obrogated but not abrogated.) If such a thing happens then many may take inspiration from bishop Lindsay`s successor, bishop Ambrose Griffiths, who said that when he got new instructions from Rome he put them in the bottom draw of his desk and left them there.

Sunday, 9 July 2017

More Good news from diocese of Lancaster: Institute of Christ the King gets second church in Preston

Image may contain: people sitting, table and indoor

Delighted to see this today. The Institute of Christ the King recently announced they are opening a school in Preston. Now they have a second church. I was interested to read this as a friend of mine was a curate in English Martyrs and I used to go to visit. A fabulous church and so good that it will be staffed by the Institute. Let`s hope they one day cross the Pennines and open up in Hexham and Newcastle.

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Tuesday, 4 July 2017

Summorum Pontificum at 10

This Friday is a significant day. Not only does our bishop, Seamus Cunningham, turn 75 and so reach the age at which his resignation must be submitted to the Holy See but it also marks the tenth anniversary of the publication of Summorum Pontificum. Nothing much seems to be going on in the diocese to mark this anniversary so I thought to do something. We are having a Missa Cantata on Friday at 7pm to give thanks. The Mass will be for the feast of SS Cyril and Methodius who are not without liturgical significance,  but after Mass there will be a talk from our own Leo Darroch, former president of Una Voce International, the umbrella committee for the societies throughout the world which seek to promote the Extraordinary Form of the liturgy.

Leo will talk to us about his perspective on the ten years of SP. He has just written a history of Una Voce for the period 1964-2003 which is about to be published by Gracewing. The flyer by Lord Gill says:

This book is a straightforward document. It eschews the debate on the merits of the old rite an the shortcomings of the new. I does not dwell on the consequences to Cathlic liturgy of the introduction of the Novus Ordo. It simply records in unemotional detail the ways in which for nearly forty years faithful Catholics were denied access to the old rite.

Sounds like an essential read and quite a hefty one too at five hundred pages. So if you`d like to hear Leo Darroch`s reflections on Summorum Pontificum then do come on Friday night. The talk will be about forty minutes with an opportunity for questions. Refreshments will be available too.
Image result for leo darroch pope
Leo Darroch and Pope Benedict XVI

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Warrington Ordinations

Sadly I couldn`t make the ordinations for the FSSP on Saturday. It would have been wonderful to be there. If asked thirty years ago which diocese in England would be the first to hold ordinations according to the traditional books I would never have thought it would have been Liverpool, then with archbishop Worlock in charge. How things change. Let`s hope there`s more of this kind of thing to come! Congratulations to the newly ordained. Ad multos annos!

I think they get their vestments (non tumblerdryer friendly) from the same shop as I do!.

For more click here.

Sunday, 18 June 2017


This is timely. I was talking to a priest recently, telling him how a
mutual friend had asked advice about where to buy a special vestment
which a parishioner had given a large sum to buy. I was surprised when this priest said his main concern in buying vestments are whether they are washable. Not
something on my list of priorities! Oh and I have someone coming to fix
my washer/dryer tomorrow.

Thanks to Laurence England

Wednesday, 14 June 2017

Corpus Christi

There will be a Missa Cantata with procession and Benediction at St Joseph`s on Thursday June 15th at 7pm for the feast of Corpus Christi.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

A, B,C or D.

I had been thinking of posting this a few days ago but Fr Simon Henry has beaten me to it! However not everyone who reads my blog reads his (although I would recommend they do).

There was an article on which I thought useful in the light of Forward Together In Hope. Phil Lawler speaks about the situation in Boston USA but the responses to their sitauation I thought instructive for us too. He sets out four responses to the current Catholic meltdown. These are:

A) “This is a disaster! Stop everything. Drop what you’re doing. “Business as usual” makes no sense; this is a pastoral emergency. We don’t just need another “renewal” program, offered by the same people who have led us into this debacle. We need to figure out what has gone wrong. More than that. We know that the Gospel has the power to bring people to Christ; therefore it follows that we have failed to proclaim the Gospel. The fault lies with us. We should begin with repentance for our failures.”

B) “Don’t worry. Times change, and we have to change with them. Religion isn’t popular in today’s culture, but the faith will make a comeback sooner or later. We just need to keep plugging away, to have confidence, to remember God’s promise that the Church will endure forever.”

C) “It doesn’t really matter whether or not people go to church on Sunday. As long as we’re all nice people, God in his mercy will bring us all to heaven.”

D) “Don’t bother me with your statistics. Actually the faith is stronger than ever. Our parish/diocese is vibrant! You’re only seeing the negative.
Sounds a fair summary of the responses to me. He notes:
 Response C) is not Catholic. Response D) is—how shall I put this gently?—not rational. Unfortunately, I hear B), C), and D) much more often than A). Don’t you?

Thursday, 27 April 2017

LMS York Pilgrimage

I`m looking forward to being celebrant of this Mass again after a few years. H/T to Fr Henry for the posting.

Monday, 24 April 2017

Easter Octave

I may be not seeing the obvious but why is it that the Easter Octave in the Extraordinary Form ends on Easter Saturday not Low Sunday? I`ve looked at the Catholic Encyclopedia but not found an answer.

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Easter Sunday Music

I know some people like to know in advance so here is the music for Easter Sunday Mass at 12noon  at St Joseph`s. Many thanks to the Westland Singers

'By the first bright Easter day'...( 1889 Tune, words by Fr.Faber)Sung before Mass
Vidi Aquam...Ludwig Ebner.
Missa Martyrum...Bonfitto
Vitimae paschali laudes... Plainsong.
'Laudamus te'...(from the Gloria by Vivaldi).
O Filii et Filiae... Trad french tune.
Easter Hymn. Jesus Christ is ris'n today...(Tune 1708).

Tuesday, 11 April 2017

Deanery Chat

Maybe lay people wonder what priests talk about at deanery meetings.
From this month`s deanery meeting:
The fathers discussed what is wrong with the diocese/universal Church.
`We have forgotten Vatican II and especially the spirit of Vatican II`
Me: I thought the SSPX have been told that Vatican II is optional and not following it doesn`t prevent you being a Catholic.
Disgruntled Father: Without Vatican II we`d be in a terrible state.
Me: How would that terrible state differ from what we have now?
No reply.

Tuesday, 4 April 2017

North East Catholic HIstory Society

I`ve been meaning to advertise these talks in advance. Tomorrow we have Hugh Shankland giving the following talk:Out of Italy-The Italians in the North East.. Hugh`s book is available on Amazon and I feel certain copies will be available at the talk.There is a synopsis of the book:

Out of Italy concerns the Italian contribution to life in North-East England since Roman times, with particular attention to the last 250 years. Italian-Swiss stuccoists decorated many of the region's finest historic buildings; a colony of skilled craftsmen from Como specialised in manufacturing optical instruments in Victorian Newcastle; and there have lived among us gifted Italian architects, artists, glass-blowers, mosaic workers, and even, briefly, Giuseppe Garibaldi. In the nineteenth century, numerous Italians from a peasant background found their way here to try their luck as street traders and organ-grinders, chestnut sellers and ice cream makers, and many went on to found their families' fortunes. But with the Second World War, when anti-Italian feeling ran high, the community's resilience was tested to the utmost: even elderly long-settled Italians were interned as 'enemy aliens', while other family members served in the British forces, one even winning the VC. From 1942, thousands of Italian prisoners-of-war filled labour camps in the North-East, and a few eventually settled. Mass emigration from Italy resumed after the war, bringing hundreds of men and women to work among us. Their presence and their skills, like those of their many forerunners, have coloured the life of our region in numerous ways. Over 300 evocative illustrations accompany a lively narrative which details the lives of many individuals and families within the broader context of their times. This is the first book to study Italian immigration in a region of England in such detail and over such a long period of time

We`ve had a number of talks about the Irish in the North East so this will be a new perspective. Maybe one day we`ll get a talk on the Polish community in the North East.

The talk will be held in the meeting room at St Andrew`s church, Worswick St, Newcastle starting at 2.15pm. All welcome. Non-members of the society are asked for a donation of £1.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Solemn High Mass of St Joseph

Some photos from last night`s Mass.

The Westland Singers

`A highly privileged diocese`

So yesterday we celebrated the feast of St Joseph with a splendid Solemn High Mass. Pictures to follow. That was what the diocesan ordo said was to happen. However the cathedral celebrated St Cuthbert and is celebrating St Joseph today. What of St Cuthbert for the rest of the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle? I might have thought being a patron of the diocese and a solemnity he might still have made an appearance somewhere.

Others have noticed this too. Rubricarius left a comment on the previous post and Ttony of The Muniment Room has drawn attention to this. In 1865 March 19th was a Sunday. This is what his English ordo for 1865 has to offer:

19 SUNDAY, Third of Lent, semidouble. Violet. First Vespers of St Cuthbert, commemoration of the Sunday. [In Diocese of Liverpool, Plenary Indulgence, and in Diocese of Southwark, Plenary Indulgence for eight days for St Joseph.]
20 Monday St Cuthbert, Bishop Confessor, double. White. [In Diocese of Hexham and Newcastle, Patron, double of first class with an Octave. Creed. Plenary Indulgence.]
21 Tuesday St Benedict, Abbot Confessor, double. White.
22 Wednesday St JOSEPH, Spouse of the BVM, double of the second class (transferred from 19 March). White. [In Diocese of Plymouth, St Edward, King Martyr, double. Red.]
23 Thursday St Patrick, greater double (transferred from 17 March). White. [In Diocese of Plymouth, St Joseph, double of the second class (transferred from 19 March). White.]
Not only does St Joseph step out of the way for the third Sunday of Lent and St Cuthbert but also St Benedict, moving him to the 22nd! But then St Joseph was known for his selflessness and willingness to stay in the background. Interestingly St Patrick was moved around too, to the 23rd. 

Rubricarius drew my attention to an interesting aspect of all this. St Cuthbert in H and N had his own octave! In Lent! I was surprised that St Joseph didn`t merit an octave but then again he wouldn`t mind... Rubricarius wrote to me saying: the praxis was conceded by specific grant of the Holy See to very limited number of dioceses but no further ones allowed from 1895. Did you realise you are living in a highly privileged diocese?

An octave of St Cuthbert in the middle of Lent would be exciting. Would this  mean a relaxation of Lenten discipline through those days? I wonder when it stopped? In fact I`m a fan of octaves at the best of times. Clearly the Pentecost Octave needs restoring as a priority but then we could have the others too. I wonder if there is an Ocatve Society pressing for their restoration?

Still it`s strange about the cathedral. Rubricarius thinks it must be in the hands of Rad Trads.


I went down to church to celebrate the 12.05 OF Mass to find confusion in the sacristy. John our weekday server, had said his office using the H & N setting on Universalis and found it said today was St Joseph`s day and yesterday was St Cuthbert`s. As he had just finished lighting the 29 candles we had set out in St Joseph`s chapel as well as the big six and the Mass was for an intention of his I gave him the benefit of the doubt. `If the cathedral can do it then so can I` I thought. Also we hadn`t had OF Mass at St Joseph`s yesterday as I celebrate on Monday at St Wilfrid`s.  At the start of Mass I explained the situation but found myself informed by Pat who was near the front that there had been a mistake in the ordo and that it should be St Joseph today. if this was true I thought we would have been emailed to inform us of the situation.  While I`m here a happy St Benedict`s` day today for those who are celebrating his feast today!

Monday, 13 March 2017

Solemn High Mass for St Joseph`s Day.

This year, as March 19th falls on the third Sunday of Lent, the feast of St Joseph is transferred to Monday 20th. St Cuthbert seems to be kicked into touch this year so far as I can tell.

There will be a Solemn High Mass at St Joseph`s on Monday 20th March at 7pm. Music by the Westland singers: details to follow. Refreshments afterwards in the Ingram room.

The Sacred Ministers will be the usual suspects.

The usual suspects

UPDATE: Music will be;
Kyrie and Gloria from Little Credo Mass in C, Mozart K257
Sanctus, plainsong, 
Agnus Dei, Mass of St Joseph, Gruber,
Communion Motet: Jesu, rex admirabilis Palestrina

Wednesday, 8 March 2017

Learning from St Joseph`s, Benwell

On Sunday evening I was delighted to entertain some old friends who used to work in Newcastle but now work in Berlin. They are Evangelicals and very involved in their local Lutheran church. On Sunday morning they had been for the Sunday service at St Joseph`s, Benwell, Newcastle. That may sound strange as Evangelical churches are not normally dedicated to St Joseph. You`ve probably guessed: St Joseph`s until recently was a Catholic church of the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle. In fact it still features on the Taking Stock website as a Catholic church. I`ve never been inside but had always thought it would be worth a visit one day but never made it. The design is unusual for a Catholic church in the North East with its large dome. On Sunday they were celebrating their first anniversary as an Evangelical place of worship. ( No mention of Lent on the service sheet.).

The last Catholic parish priest of St Joseph`s was Fr Jim O`Keefe. From what I heard the parishioners were told that their church needed urgent rewiring which would cost £40,000 and as they had no money it would have to close. It was sold to the Evangelicals for £1. Fr Jim has been leading our diocesan review Forward Together In Hope since then which has just concluded its three year review of the diocese, looking at how we manage decline. 

St Joseph`s, Benwell, as it now is

The Evangelicals were from Jesmond Parish Church which has long been a flourishing community. Technically they are part of the C of E but the links seem rather complicated. Nonetheless JPC set about planting a church in Benwell at St Joseph`s. They had already done this in Gateshead in St Wilfrid`s parish where they built on the work of an independent church in the Old Fold to create Holy Trinity parish where they have built a new church. My guests told me how one hundred or so members of JPC were sent to get St Joseph`s off the ground. They worked hard and by what they called `sacrificial giving` raised over £1 million to restore the building. Through hard work and professional skill motivated by faith they have made St Joseph`s into a flourishing community with a congregation of nearly three hundred.

Meanwhile FTIH seeks to review the Catholic situation in the North East. The talk is of building flourishing communities and supporting smaller communities. I suggest we have something to learn from JPC. I have a small parish in a challenging area of Gateshead in St Wilfrid`s parish. There the small congregation have been following closely the developments of FTIH worrying that they may be earmarked for closure. No closures were announced at the big meetings to conclude the process held on 9th February but the threat is still there. Could we ever imagine a large, prosperous Catholic parish such as St Charles, Gosforth or the cathedral sending a hundred parishioners to St Wilfrid`s every Sunday to help revive the parish and start `sacrificial giving`? They would have to start a programme of evangelisation which means we would have to know and love the Catholic faith and have a zeal to pass it on to others. That would mean absorbing the Catechism of the Catholic Church and using the means that have been produced to teach it in an appealing way. It seems unlikely at the present despite the efforts of the diocesan evangelisation team. The reported remarks of the new Superior General of the Jesuits about how he hates to hear talk of doctrine summed up the problem. All we seem to hear about is decline and the goal seems to be to remove priests from their role as pastors and reinvent them as chaplains to lay-led communities. I don`t understand how that will create flourishing Catholic communities. As I heard said at the last deanery meeting we are moving the deckchairs on the Titanic as the band strikes up "All are welcome".

If the Catholic church was a business seeking to promote itself (wait a minute though, the diocese of Hexham and Newcastle is now a limited company: that sounds like a business!) surely we would play to our strengths. What has the Catholic Church got to offer that is unique and appealing? Things like an unbroken tradition of teaching from the age of the apostles, having been the religion of this land down to the Reformation, timeless beauty in its architecture, art, music and liturgy, the lives of its saints come to mind. For my point of view promoting the appeal of the Mass of the Ages as found in the Extraordinary Form should be a major part of this. It`s not going to go away and despite the lack of promotion or even mention of it in diocesan circles the Extraordinary Form continues to attract. The congregation here at Gateshead continues to impress by its steady growth and the number of young people who attend. Our Ordinary Form Mass on a Sunday has benefited from immigration too with parishioners from Roumania, Hungary, Israel, Mexico, Nigeria, the Philippines, China, India, Slovakia, Poland and Germany. St Wilfrid`s does have a flourishing Sunday community of nearly two hundred people in the weekly Polish Mass.  They don`t seem to have been involved in the FTIH process but they are young and keen. We could learn from their enthusiasm to preserve their Catholic culture too. 

What JPC has done in Benwell surely has something we can learn from. I hope our Catholic communities will indeed flourish but they can only do so if they are well-formed in the faith as handed down from past generations.